Many Christians today hold different views regarding the manner of the second coming of Christ. But perhaps one view that has gained widespread popularity in modern mainstream Christianity is the ‘secret rapture’ teaching. The theme has also spilled into the entertainment industry with, for example, the 2014 release of the Christian blockbuster movie, Left Behind, which was no doubt based upon the secret rapture concept. Proponents of the ‘secret rapture’ doctrine believe that the second coming of Jesus will be in two-phases; first there will be a secret rapture during which the righteous will secretly vanish to heaven, then there follows a seven-year period of tribulation during which the antichrist emerges and persecutes the remaining believers. Finally there will be the glorious appearing of Christ at which time those who missed out at the rapture get a second chance at salvation. Millions of people today accept this teaching as true.
Does the Bible support the ‘secret rapture’ teaching? Will the second coming of Christ be a private, secretive event? Will there be any second chance for the lost after Jesus comes? It is important for us to find answers to these questions because Jesus Himself has given warning regarding His second coming. In Matthew we are told “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” Matthew 24:4, 5. In the last days there will be impostors who will pretend to be Christ such that they would seek to deceive even God’s people. This means that we are not only to believe that Jesus is coming, but we also need to know the manner of His coming so that we are not misled.
A cursory reading of the Bible will show clearly that when Jesus returns it will be a global, glorious and cataclysmic event.
A cursory reading of the Bible will show clearly that when Jesus returns it will be a global, glorious and cataclysmic event. The apostle Paul says “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”1 Thessalonians 4:17, 18. Notice also that the resurrected saints and the living righteous are ‘caught up’ to meet Jesus in the air; therefore when Jesus returns He is not going to touch the ground. This is why He warns us, “Therefore if they say to you, “Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or “Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:26, 27. It is because the second coming of Jesus will be such a glorious and powerful event, that the Bible likens it to lightning shining from east to west.
No living person on earth will need to be informed that Jesus has come, as it will be visible and audible to everyone. Scripture further tells us “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him” Revelation 1:7. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30. These texts clearly show that all people on earth will see Jesus when He comes the second time. At the second coming of Christ those who died believing in Christ will be resurrected and together with the living righteous will ascend to meet Jesus in the air. There will not be anything secret about it.
No Second Chance
The secret rapture theory peddles the idea that those who miss out on salvation at the rapture will get a second chance to repent during the subsequent seven year tribulation period. Perhaps this is the reason why the doctrine has spread like wild fire, as it appeals to the carnal nature. But is this view Biblical? The Scriptures show us that it is at Christ’s second coming that He will reward everyone, the good and the bad, for their deeds. “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Matthew 16:27. “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.” Revelation 22:12. This eliminates the possibility of anyone getting a second chance to repent after Christ’s return. The second coming of Christ is a time of final judgment. The time to repent and follow Jesus is now!
Moreover, at the second coming of Christ the earth will be destroyed to become uninhabitable. In his prophecy about the end of the world, Jeremiah writes “I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; and the heavens, they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth. I beheld, and indeed there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were broken down at the presence of the LORD, By His fierce anger.” Jeremiah 4:23-26
Source Of Confusion
So where does the idea of the ‘secret rapture’ come from? With all the Scripture evidence to the contrary, why do many Christians hold the idea of a ‘secret rapture’? Just like many other deceptions, the secret rapture idea is based upon few Bible verses taken out of context. The first concept used to support this teaching is the biblical statement that Jesus will come ‘as a thief in the night’. Let’s look at one verse that uses this phrase. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10. This is certainly not describing a secret event. Is it?
When the Bible talks of the coming of Jesus as a “thief in the night’, it is not implying that the event will be secret or quiet, but rather that it will be unexpected and sudden, such that to the wicked it will come as a surprise. Jesus says, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:39, 40. In other words, to those who are not prepared, the coming of Jesus will be as ‘a thief in the night’ as they will not be expecting it. The apostle Paul then tells us “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4.
The second notion used to sustain the secret rapture theory is the text in Luke 17:34-36 where Jesus says “I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” Luke 17:34-36. Those who believe in the secret rapture use these texts to assert that when Jesus returns the saints will secretly disappear from earth. Let’s be honest and look at what these verses actually teach. Jesus is expressing a basic point, that there will be two groups when He returns, the good and the bad. Consistent with His usual way of teaching, Jesus uses beautiful symbols or parables to illustrate what will happen at the end of time. This is not the first time, as in Matthew 25 He uses the parable of the ten virgins to illustrate what will happen in the future. So let’s breakdown the symbols in Luke 17:34-36;
Two Men In One Bed
A bed generally conveys the idea of sleep, and Christ used sleep to represent death. For example, He said to His disciples “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” “Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”” John 11:11, 14. So, at the resurrection on the final day, there will be two kinds of people sleeping in the grave, the lost and the saved.
Two Women Grinding Together
According to Bible prophecy a woman represents a church (Jeremiah 6:2). Grinding grain denotes working with the Word of God. Thus when Jesus comes again, there will be two kinds of churches—the true and the false. Both will be externally doing the same thing, but only one will be saved.
Two Men In The Field
The field represents the world (Matthew 13:38). At the second coming of Jesus there will be two kinds of missionaries—the true and the false. Jesus foretold “Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew 7:22
The second coming of Jesus will be an emotional event, some will rejoice, some will weep. There will be only two groups and it will not be a secret. By choosing to follow Jesus today and abiding in His Word it is our privilege to be part of that company that shall rejoice as He comes and say “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9